Sunday, July 31, 2011

Treasure hunt

(o buscando tesoros con La vuelta al mundo). I just discovered a way to travel the world without actually leaving your city, and you can do it too. Jackie Rueda from Casi en Serio started a game in which every month she suggests a theme and people all over the world look for this item(s) and photograph them. Then, on the last day of every month, these photos are shared on your blog, if you have one, and uploaded to the group in Flickr, as you go. This photography community is already quite large and people from all over the globe are participating. You do not need a fancy camera, and everyone can play, professional or not, even if you (like me) are quite illiterate in photography matters. On July, the theme was "treasure hunting" and the treasures to be found were: a bell tower, a kiss, an unknown girl, a door painted in a color, a bridge*, a Vespa*, letters in the floor, a mailbox, street signals, a fence, the façade of a shop and a hydrant or (drinking) water fountain*. Here are my photos for this month, though I missed* a few... We took the pictures in Den Haag and Scheveningen (where the city joins the seaside).

Fence. This is where you come and look for your lost kid !

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Y basta con que el corazón sea como una frutilla..."

("...and that's all that's needed for the heart to become a strawberry..")
Via lisz
Ok, you will excuse me with the Cortázar citing today, but I found this video and it inmediately made me think of the passage below. Love the song, love the story.
"When we said goodbye we were like two children who have suddenly become friends at a birthday party and keep looking at one another while their parents take them by the hand and lead them off, and it's a sweet pain, and a hope, and you know the name of one is Tony and the other one Lulu, and that's all that's needed for the heart to become a strawberry, and... " (Hopscotch, chapter 93).

"Al despedirnos éramos como dos chicos que se han hecho estrepitosamente amigos en una fiesta de cumpleaños y se siguen mirando mientras los padres los tiran de la mano y los arrastran, y es un dolor dulce y una esperanza, y se sabe que uno se llama Tony y la otra Lulú, y basta para que el corazón sea como una frutilla, y..." (Rayuela, capítulo 93).

Flower dreams...

Do you know Julio Cortazar? He is perhaps my favorite writer. When I found "Rayuela" (Hopscotch) I could not stop reading. From the first page. It changed my life, it changed the way I saw the world, it let the magic loose. The magic in everyday life. Hopscotch is not a book, it's a game. For a taste, here is one of my favorite quotes, from chapter 141. In both spanish and english, because I believe things get lost during the translation process.
 "Era duro renunciar a creer que una flor puede ser bella para la nada."  

"It was hard to deny belief in the fact that a flower could be beutiful to no end". 
 (Translation by Pantheon books, 1966). 

I love that quote, ever since the first time I read it. Even if I have the  feeling of not completely understanding what it means.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ice-Cream World Tour: Den Haag

I guess it is no wonder that we are crazy about ice-cream. We made a point in having an ice-cream stand at our wedding.
Photo by Fotoflex Nederland
So I thought I would share some of the best ice-cream shops I've been too, in different places, so you too can travel the world by eating ice cream. This is all based on our own personal experience, and nobody paid us to write this.

 Let's start with Den Haag. In the busy commercial street Spuistraat, at number 64 Lange Poten, number 3 you will find an italian, handmade ice-cream shop that is always crowded and open til quite late (at least until it´s dark). It's called "Marinello Ijs".
Via here
I have tried dark chocolate, tiramisu, cinammon, strawberry and mango and all of these flavors are delicious. Will have to continue with the rest of the flavors. The "creamy" flavors have been the best so far. The staff is very friendly, and numerous, so even if there are lots of people the service is very fast.

Via here
Oh, and you can only pay in cash. (I point this out because here in Holland, it is very common to pay everything with debit card, or Pin, as they call it here, even very small amounts). But don't worry, there are cash machines nearby. Last time we went there it was almost closing time, and they actually waited for us to go get some money. We had to have ice-cream.

Post edit: Unfortunately, this ice cream shop has closed, I believe, because the owners retired.   
After being closed for the winter while hoping to find a new place, they are back, very close to their old location at Lange Poten 3, and with new flavors too.
Via Google maps

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where is the summer?

Oh, the lovely dutch weather. Even when the temperatures indicate 14 °C, because of the wind, the feeling is more like 11 °C. And with rain. That means that when you walk outside you get hit with rain in your face from every direction and your umbrella will most probably get broken.

But let's be grateful and not forget that it is this weather that makes the landscape so green and pretty.

Instead of complaining a girl can choose to dream. Dream of going to warm places, swimming, chilling and being impressed by nature. Do you know Boobie birds? Their feet are the most amazing shade of skyblue, and the brighter they are, the healthier the bird is. This is very useful when choosing a mate. You can read more about them here (and I strongly recommend you click on that link, Mudfooted is a great place).

These birds only live in the Galapagos and some other Pacific islands (among which the "Marietas" in Mexico).We were so lucky to meet them during our honeymoon. I was so amazed that we could get so close to them. As you approach, they will threaten you but they won't actually attack you (unlike geese or swan who woudn't think twice before biting you if you were that close to their precious eggs. It was after all geese that defended Rome from the Gauls in the Temple of Juno in 390 BC, but I digress).

We were also able to spot some humpback whales. Famous for their singing (that they actually learn through cultural transmission*) and for the long distances they travel, up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi). They come every year, all the way from the North Atlantic, from as far as Iceland. I felt so lucky and so blessed, this was one of my dreams ever since childhood. At some point I wanted to be a marine biologist, too. It was definitely a magical experience.

*Garland, E., Goldizen, A., Rekdahl, M., Constantine, R., Garrigue, C., Hauser, N., Poole, M., Robbins, J., & Noad, M. (2011). Dynamic Horizontal Cultural Transmission of Humpback Whale Song at the Ocean Basin Scale Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2011.03.019

Friday, July 22, 2011

On a rainy day, bake fairy cakes

I had been wanting to learn how to decorate with fondant and marzipan, and finally a few weeks ago, I took a class. Then last Sunday we had a BBQ and I was so happy to use it as an excuse to bring dessert.
And so I made fairy cakes. I know in many countries the term is cupcake, but I just love the British term. It's so dreamy, like fairies brought them all the way from their underground home.
Perhaps someone from the UK can clarify the difference between the terms, if there is any. But no, this time it wasn't fairies, it was just me:
 Like I said, I used marzipan to decorate them, which is not only smooth and pretty, but also delicious. To "paste" it on the cupcakes I used a thin layer of apricot jam. The boy and I made figures on them, and we had a lot of fun. For the owl cupcake I used this tutorial from the lovely Celebration Girl:
 I don't know if it's just me, but I just love recipe books that come with pictures, it really makes all the difference. I am convinced that on a cookbook, the recipes that are used the most are the ones that are illustrated. This recipe uses yoghurt, instead of butter. I really liked it. So, if you would like to see the recipe, step by step with photos continue reading. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I never thought it would be easy...

but I didn't expect it to be this hard.

So, this is some kind of letter to the void. Or maybe someone can offer some insight?

 It has been two years since I am in this country. Two years in which I have been repeatedly looking for a job, and if I get one more rejection letter I think I will collapse. Already writing those motivation letters makes me feel a bit sick. In the meantime I haven´t been sitting at home doing nothing. The first summer  I spent here, I did an internship at a small animal clinic. I was happy. I learnt a lot, and I was only excited to realize that I have to learn even more. It became clear that I would need to master the language (this I knew, but it just became evident).

After this first two month internship, I went on to a second internship for a big animal nutrition company. I spent six months living in a farm and I loved it. I had to babysit cows giving birth, take samples on the days prior and after parturition and generally be in the barn which I love. I was also involved in other projects, for instance one that dealt with what kind of tastes cows like better.

It was a good experience, and I wonder if I should have stayed, but the major downside was that it was quite far from the boy and we would only see each other on the weekends (this after being "long-distance" for a year and a half). We were dying to be together. If you see a map of The Netherlands, I was in the South East, very close to the border with Germany, and we are now on the opposite side of the country.

Via Google maps
I had also been waiting for a certain dutch course to start at the university, that would finally allow me to improve my language skills. And so after my appointed 6 months at the farm, I came to live with the boy. I started my language course, and I briefly worked as a volunteer at a small animal clinic again. During these period I had been applying to jobs at clinics, with no luck. So when the opportunity came to work at an international company, in a call-center environment I took it. I stayed there for about 9 months. We were planning our wedding, I was still looking for jobs every day (haven't stopped) and applying all the time, but we realized that I needed more experience to be competitive.

And so I stopped and I started another internship, this time at a laboratory at the Veterinary faculty doing research. The reasoning for this was that since getting a job as a vet was so hard I might as well try in research, since I also have a Biology degree.  As is the situation in all medical professions, there are more doctors than needed, even when there are strict numerus fixus policies in place. The other day we read that for 1 vet that retires, there are 16 young vets waiting or so. So That is where I am now. I have applied to many PhD positions, I have applied within the biomedical, food and pharmaceutical industries. I have applied to clinics, I have applied to technician positions, I have applied to advocacy positions in medical related NGO's and to communication positions in Biological related organizations. None of the above has worked.

 I speak fluently 4 languages, and I understand quite a lot of some others. I have lived in different countries. I have 2 university degrees, from European universities. None of this seems too matter. Sure the positions that would be more "suitable" for me are in the East of the country, where the agricultural activities are concentrated, but it is too far too commute every day. I dream of specializing in Epidemiology/Infectious Disease/Public Health and working within government or international institutions. But I also love the clinic. I am open to the possibilities. What has become clear is that in research, they prefer people who have precisely studied biochemistry or molecular biology (even if I studied all the concepts and am familiar with the techniques). The clinical veterinarian market seems to be oversaturated, we read that even paraveterinarians have trouble finding jobs and internships.

I really do not understand why my profile is not adequate for the industries I have applied to, since they train you anyway, and the knowledge that you require and apply is very basic. And for technical positions, well, they prefer to hire technicians. I have even been rejected for being overqualified, which makes me wonder if getting a PhD would make things even worse, but that's a whole other subject. We have looked "out of the box" too, for example teaching at international schools. But it turns out (and I understand) that for teaching you need a degree on top of the university degree on your field of study. Same goes for working at a daycare. All the positions at the Zoo in the Education department are volunteer-based. I have obviously thought of going back to school, but at this moment of our lives it would be spending money and I want to be able to contribute to our household, plus, sometime soon, we would like to start a family.  The few recruitment agencies specialized in internationally educated people only have openings for marketing and financial related positions, or IT. In the meantime I haven´t stopped taking Dutch classes. I just finished the "advanced" course, and I am starting the next level in September.The language is so hard, that I feel my level is still kind of basic, but I am slowly getting better.

So we are hanging in there, the boy has been very supportive all along, but some days are just too hard. I feel worthless, hopeless, useless. I feel destroyed inside. I feel like I wasted my time for... 9 years at the university, for nothing. I feel like everyone is better, because SOMEONE is getting all those jobs I am applying for. I always thought we should fight for what we want. I was taught that if you do what you love, if you do your best, the opportunities will come, that it was possible to love your job, to do what you like, that you should not limit your dreams. Maybe I am living in fantasy-land. Maybe it is stupid to keep hoping to work in my field of study.

When do I fix a deadline? Until when should I wait? When do I go on and take some office job, unrelated to anything I ever dreamt or wanted. I wish I had a magic ball, I wish I could see the future, I wish someone would tell me when or how this will end. I wish I could know that if I wait long enough I will get there. Or that no matter how long I wait, it won't happen. I do not mind working a "different" job, though there is a part of me that feels it would kill my soul, and I feel like I am dying a bit already. What also scares me of taking an unrelated job, is that that would mean  less experience in my field. It feels like if I do that I would be doomed for my whole (professional) life. But this is real life. This is growing up right? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The endless lives of our glass vases

or what our wedding taught me about flowers.

Back when we were looking for inspiration I saw antique vases and old painted tin cans to be used as centerpieces.
Via Ruffled
Except when we went to antiquary shops or flea markets, we found out that stuff is EX-PEN-SIVE. So we kept looking, and at some point at a certain swedish furniture shop we found our vases. We were going for a wild, sylvester look. Like we had gone to the fields and collected flowers the same day. This is how they looked on the day:
Sorry, pic is not so good
We were so happy with them, and what's best, our guests were able to take them as a memory and we kept a few as well. And now, they are part of our everyday lives and they remind us of our special day. I learnt that Dahlia's are our (Mexico's) national flower, that aztecs used for ceremonies:
and that peonies need a lot of water. I learnt names like Delphinium, Anemones and Ranunculus. And it makes me so happy to see them by our window.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Date a girl who reads

by Rosemarie Urquico

I stumbled upon this story and thought it was worth sharing.  Perhaps you've read it already, or perhaps not, anyway here goes.

"Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

(.... )Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice. It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. (...) Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by God, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Cortazar (edited by me) under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve (...) a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. Or better yet, date a girl who writes."

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Let's all send some double Wedding Magic

to our dearest Lauren & Kamel,

Via Better in real life

AND to Robin & Collin who are getting married today !

Via Broke Ass Bride by Louis Stein
 May you have a joyous day. And may your marriage (s) be full of love, and fun, and travel.Though I do not know you girls personally, I do wish you all the best, all the happiness in the world.

And like Antoine de Saint Exupery said: "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction."


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Sea

I miss it. Not that I didn't notice that I'm living in a country that was literally built in the water... but since it's cold it's not the same.
For me, the summer means going to the beach, playing in the water for hours and hours, enjoying the sun, collecting shells and getting sticky. And whenever I see THE water, I have to go and touch it. (That's also how I ended up with water 'til my  knees inside the Grand Canal in Venice, but that´s another story).  Many summers during my childhood were spent by the ocean. But turns out the boy finds it boring to play in the water. Sure he liked it when he was a kid, but now he gets sick of it quite easy. I´m the hyperactive one, but he can not bear to stay in the sand and do nothing sunbathe or read a book and be calm. So I think when we go on vacation as a family we will be doing a lot of camping, a lot of cities and a lot of road trips. That's what I love about Europe, you can go through 4 countries in... 6 hours driving. Can not imagine such a thing in Mexico, or the whole American continent for that matter. I do hope we will have some lazy vacations by the water... sometime.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Last week we went to Italy. When we travel, we try to experience "normal", everyday situations as much as possible. We love going to the supermarket, for practical reasons, but mostly for the fun of it. And to bakeries.Trying new pastries is the best, every country does them a bit different.

We like the randomness of walking in an unknown city and suddenly being surprised by the unexpected. This is how we stumbled upon "La Specola". This is a truly unusual museum, totally worth it if you are at all interested in science (medical or not). It lies inside the faculty of Biology and apart from a very extensive natural history collection there is a beautiful garden. The true gem, though, is a collection of wax models from the 17th century. The models look so real, so well done. It is quite impressive how advanced medicine was back then. As we found it, after being slightly disappointed by the attraction-park feeling you get from walking in the crowds and crowds of visitors in the height of the summer, I was jumping up and down.

Best ice tea ever

We were there for a wedding, in case you are curious, these were our outfits:

Notice the boy's foot.
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